Sunday, September 12, 2010

Is running an expensive hobby?

Like most things in life, the answer is it depends. It's like going out for dinner - you have a whole range from a $5 fast food meal to a $100 meal at a fancy restaurant. Let's take a look at how things add up.

For the most basic running, you need a pair of shoes, shorts, and a shirt. Some may argue that some or all of these are optional, but I think it's safe to say that for 99% of runners these three things are the most essential. Say $30 for shoes, $10 for a simple shirt, and $10 for shorts. You're looking at about $50 and that's about as low as it gets even if you get stuff on clearance. How long will this last? Assuming a runner does 20 miles/week, he gets 1000 miles in a year. Let's say he gets 1000 miles from his $30 shoes which is stretching it for most people. Assume he can get by on wearing the same shirt and shorts for the whole year. With all these assumptions, he can get by with $50 a year. Typically this is not the case.

Most people spend $40-$80 or more on a pair of shoes. Typically shoes get thrown out after anywhere from 300 to 500 miles. Most runners usually have two or three pairs in use at any given time. Shirts and shorts - most people probably have a few of each and more likely than not, these are technical fabric, which means upwards of $25-30 for shirts and upwards of $20 for shorts. Let's do some numbers again:
- 4 pairs of $30 shirts = $120
- 4 pairs of $20 shorts = $80
Say they last you for 5 years. In 5 years, say you go through 10 pairs of shoes at 20 miles/week and 500 miles to a pair.
- 10 pairs of $40 shoes = $400
So, that's $120 + $80 + $400 = $600 over 5 years for an average of $120 a year.

Of course, the costs go up the more you run and the more expensive shoes you get. For a 40 miles/week runner, the $400 above goes up to $800 which, in combination with the shirts/shorts, works out to $200 a year. If you're a serious marathoner logging 80 miles/week, you probably go through 10 pairs of shoes in a single year. That means anywhere from $300 to $800 or more on shoes alone in a single year.

So, all this was just considering the three "essentials". Now, let's throw in more stuff that runners typically need or use:
- watch - anywhere from $15 to $300 (for the GPS ones)
- hat - $10-$20
- sunglasses - $10-$200
- gels - at about a buck each, it depends on how much you run and need
- mp3 player - $10-$100?
- sunblock - $5-10 a bottle
- ointments for all those aches and pains - $5 a tube
- race entry fees - $10 to $100
- extra food to meet all that extra nutritional demands
- extra showers means extra costs on your water and heating bill
- rain, winter, or snow gear if you live in those kind of places. Those things are particularly expensive.

Now it's not looking that cheap, is it? But, is it worth it? I say, totally. Think of all the extra health benefits. Better health means less time/money spent on medical appointments and costs. Many a time, a runner will just run down the neighborhood street to run an errand (dropping off a DVD rental, dropping off some mail, etc.), thereby saving money/fuel that would otherwise be spent on driving. More time outdoors mean more vitamin D. Runner's high means you increase the total happiness quotient on the planet. I could go on and on but I'm sure there are many such benefits all of which add to the fact that I've never heard anyone say "don't be a runner, it's too expensive."

How much do you spend on running?


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